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Tuesday:  October 27, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Peru (4)

Tuesday
Aug212012

Bolivia's Children Face Harsh Work in Young Lives (REPORT) 

(Video: Bolivia children work long days in mines/UNICEF)

(8/21/21) - "I have worked as long as I can remember," says Felix Mamani Mayta, a 14-year-old whose life story illustrates an everyday reality for 850,000 children and adolescents in Bolivia.

Felix, who is still in school, began with small jobs in retail and later as a bicycle delivery boy for his family's business, a combination ice cream shop and meat and poultry distributor.

Witty and full of energy, Felix is a board member of the Union of Boys and Girl Workers of Bolivia, an advocacy group that lobbies Congress and municipal councils for legal protections for children.

The group lobbies "so that working girls and boys have a place in society, so that all children and adolescents are taken into account, so that we are listened to as children," he told AFP.

(PHOTO: El Alto, Bolivia/Wikipedia) Franz Rios Apaza is 13 years old and sells cigarettes in the streets of El Alto, a city bordering La Paz and one of the poorest in the country.

"I began working when I was seven," he said. He worked as a bus driver's assistant, and shined shoes, and any other work he could find.

"I don't have a father, only a mother, and we are three brothers," he said. "I am in school. I go in at seven in the evening and get out at 10 at night, and from there I go sell cigarettes until two or three in the morning."

"I earn 50 bolivianos (about seven dollars) on Fridays and Saturday, when I make more money."

Child labor "is a problem of poverty, not only in Bolivia, but in developing countries," said UNICEF's representative in La Paz, Marco Luigi Corsi, adding that there are no easy solutions.

The United Nations Children's Fund estimates that 850,000 children between the ages of five and 17 in Bolivia work and believes that it puts them at physical and psychological risk.

UNICEF, the Bolivian government and non-governmental organizations have identified 23 categories of child labor that all agree are dangerous.

They include work harvesting sugar cane and chestnuts in the lowlands and the Amazon basin, and mining in the Andean highlands.

In a country of 10 million people "there are about 300,000 who are dedicated full time to some form of child labor and between 40 and 60 percent in Bolivia are likely involved in the worst forms of child labor," says UNICEF spokesman Wolfgang Friedl.

"Bolivia is in a worrying situation, but there is recognition among legislators and government officials that the international laws and conventions to eradicate child labor must be fulfilled," he said.

(PHOTO: Jose Gonzales, 14, pushes a wheelbarrow with silver ore along a shaft in a mine in Bolivia in 2010/AFP)Marco de Gaetano, coordinator of an NGO called El Trabajo de Crecer, which operates in Bolivia and Peru, says the goal is to end all forms of exploitation of minors.

"We are betting on the dignity of labor and the elimination of the worst forms of labor," he said.

Despite this, many child workers in Bolivia, especially those involved in commerce, believe they have been strengthened by their experience.

"Most people think that work is something bad, but on the contrary, for us it was a source of experience," said Felix, who said that as a bus driver's assistant he needed to know fractions to make change.

Tania Nava, head of the local municipality's child welfare office, is skeptical of the benefits. "There is an unresolved debate over whether children should work or not," she said.

"Families, for reasons of poverty, are obliged to have all their members work," she said. However there is unanimous agreement that children deserve access to health, education, dignity and to be protected against exploitation and the worst forms of child labor.

-- This article first appeared on France 24.

Monday
Mar262012

Guatemala President Calls for Drug Legalization Ahead of Summit Of The Americas (NEWS) 

(PHOTO: Guatemalan President Otto Molina & Honduras' Vice President Samuel Reyes speak during an anti-drugs summit at the Santo Domingo Hotel, Antigua, Guatemala/IBT)(HN, March, 26, 2012) - This past weekend, three Central American heads of state attended a regional summit to discuss the drug issue which has plagued their nations and their neighbors for decades.  In Antigua, Guatemala, Saturday for the first time, leaders met explicitly to discuss ending the war on drugs as we know it.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said the war on drugs has "failed", and it's time to end the "taboo" on discussing decriminalization for the Americas.

Also in attendance were Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. Former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, a harsh critic of US-style drug policies and a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy was an invited guest and addressed the summit. Outside of Central America, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Mexican President Felipe Calderon have expressed support for the meeting.

Invited to attend but who didn't were El Salvador President Mauricio Funes, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.  While Funes initially expressed support for the summit, he has since backed away. Lobo and Ortega have opposed the idea from the beginning.  Funes and Ortega did send lower ranking members of the governments to the meeting, and the Salvadoran delegation called for a future meeting on the subject, saying it remained a topic of great interest and importance to the region.

"We have realized that the strategy in the fight against drug trafficking in the past 40 years has failed. We have to look for new alternatives," said President Molina, a former army general who first called for such a meeting last month, shortly after taking office. "We must end the myths, the taboos, and tell people you have to discuss it, debate it."

(PHOTO: Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla attends Saturday's drugs summit at the Santo Domingo Hotel in Antigua/CRTV)He said that drug use, production, and sales should be legalized and regulated and suggested that the region jointly regulate the drug trade, perhaps by establishing transit corridors through which regulated drug shipments could pass.

But US-backed drug policies in the region have in recent years brought a wave of violence to the region, which is used as a springboard for Colombian cocaine headed north to the US and Canada, either direct or via Mexico. Mexican drug cartels have expanded their operations in Central America in the past few year, perhaps in response to the pressures they face at home.

High levels of poverty and the strong presence of criminal gangs, particularly in El Salvador and Honduras,  combined with the cartel presence is making the region one of the world's deadliest.

El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, along with Jamaica, have the world's highest murder rates; and Guatemala recently has been saying it is being "outgunned by gangs".

In its most recent annual report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said violence linked to the drug wars has reached "alarming and unprecedented" levels in the region.

"How much have we paid here in Central America in deaths, kidnappings, extortion?" asked Chinchilla. "Central America has to ask whether it is time that we raise this issue at the Security Council of United Nations."

President Molina also suggested that, barring legalization and a regulated drug trade, consumer countries should be taxed for the drugs seized in the region on their behalf - including the United States.

"For every kilo of cocaine that is seized, we want to be compensated 50% by the consumer countries, he said, adding that the has a "responsibility" because of its high rates of drug use.

While Saturday's summit produced no common platform or manifesto, it is an important step in the fight for a more sensible, effective, and humane response to drug use and the regional drug trade.

Some leaders are pushing for a discussion on alternatives to the drug war to be on the agenda at next month's Organization of American States (OAS) summit in Cartagena, Colombia, April 14-15 where President Santos has also been signaling an openness to debate on the issue. 

Members of the OAS include 35 countries:  Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico,      Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Grenada, Suriname, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Bahamas, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Canada, Belize, and Guyana.

The White House says US President Barack Obama will host Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico for a North American summit in Washington on April 2. The meeting is expected to focus on economic growth and competitiveness, security, energy, and climate change; along with North America’s role in the upcoming Summit of the Americas

Ahead of the summit, Obama said Monday he was suspending trade benefits for Argentina from the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program, which waives import duties on thousands of goods from developing countries because of the South American country's failure to pay more than $300 million in compensation awards in two disputes involving American investors; effective in 60 days.

Argentina's top exports under the program were grape wine, prepared or preserved beef, sugar confections and olive oil. Washington waived about $17.3 million in duties on those goods from Argentina last year.

--- HUMNEWS (c) 2012

Monday
Aug082011

Vulnerability of indigenous tribes in Brazil (REPORT) 

By Gabriel Elizondo 

According to workers at the Brazilian government-run national Indian foundation, FUNAI, late last week a group of men from a paramilitary faction from Peru, armed with rifles and machine guns, entered Brazilian territory and encircled a remote jungle guard post used by FUNAI researchers to study and protect isolated indigenous tribes near the border with Peru.

The incident happened at a FUNAI post known as Xinane, a very remote monitoring location in Brazil's Acre state that serves as a small, five-person research base for the study and protection of isolated indigenous tribes in the region.

FUNAI officials say the armed men were most certainly trying to kill Indians in the area to make way for illegal logging, or new cocaine trafficking routes through the forest from Peru.

Either way, it represents a new escalation of threats of violence against Indians and those serving to protect them in a region along the Brazil-Peru border that has some of the highest concentration of isolated and uncontacted tribes anywhere in the world. (More here from Survial International about the uncontacted Indians of Brazil).

The armed men apparently hid in the forest surrounding the FUNAI outpost. The five workers on site saw it as an obvious threat and reported feeling vulnerable in the jungle area with little protection; the nearest Brazilian town being more than 200km away. 

The FUNAI workers on site - which included Jose Carlos Meirelles, an indigenous peoples researcher with decades of experience in the region, as well as Carlos Travassos, the chief of the isolated Indians division of FUNAI – sent urgent emails from a satellite internet hookup to journalists, friends, and family alerting them to the situation.

In one email, according to Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, Travassos reportedly said: “We are totally surrounded. They (the gunmen) are divided into three flanks. We have nowhere to run.”

Altino Machado, a local journalist in the city of Rio Branco, Brazil and one of the first to report on the incident on his blog and another blog he contributes to Terra Amazon Blog, also posted an email from Meirelles which said, in part:  “Time in front of our computer is short. It’s not easy keeping one eye on the (computer) and the other on the Peruvian (gunmen)… (The gunmen) are still here…they are monitoring us and we are them.”

Late last week, Brazil’s federal police with the help of a military helicopter reportedly swooped in to evacuate the workers temporarily. But fearing the indigenous tribes would be massacred without their presence, the researchers flew back a short time later in a helicopter with police escorts only to find their base camp looted, signs that violence against Indians might have occurred.

Tiao Viana, the governor of Acre state, has reportedly deemed the situation so critical that he has asked federal authorities for more security to protect the FUNAI workers tasked with monitoring the welfare of the Indians.

Below: My report from 2008 with Jose Carlos Meirelles, now one of the indian researchers under threat:

The rising tensions come just weeks after Brazil announced a new, nationwide plan, to be led by the military, to beef up security along the16,000 kilometers of border Brazil shares with 10 other countries. The plan calls for 5,000 soldiers from the Army, backed by unmanned surveillance aircraft, to be placed at five strategic points to choke off drug trafficking.

But it's a monumental task. The Brazilian state of Acre, where the most recent incident took place and where the high concentration of uncontacted tribes is located, shares almost 900km of thick jungle border with Peru, a country quickly becoming a world leader in export of drugs, much of which comes through the Brazilian Amazon before being exported abroad. 

But there is even more to this story.

Meirelles, one of the men encircled by the gunmen, was the man who led the expedition in 2008 thatcaptured dramatic photos of uncontacted tribes that gained worldwide media attention.

The incident with the gunmen late last week occurred near the same general regional of the Amazon where those photos in 2008 were taken.

Travassos, of FUNAI, has said it's well known that Peruvian 'mercenaries' work for loggers and drug traffickers in the area. He said he thinks the gunmen were conducting "raids" to kill the Indians, which they view as obstacles to logging and lucrative drug trafficking routes. The gunmen likely threatend the FUNAI workers in the post as a way to intimidate the Brazilian authorities to abandon their work.

And the news in June of this year of the photos of other isolated Amazon tribes also was in the same general region (see my video report about this discovery here).  

Travassos and Meirelles said they are planning to fly over the areas to get a better sense if the isolated tribes were harmed; but there is real concern some of the Indians might have been harmed.

In 2008, just days after the now famous photos were released, I flew to Feijo, Brazil and interviewed Meirelles in his modest wooden home he lives in while not in the jungle. At the time he told me he was very worried about illegal loggers from Peru encroaching into Brazilian territory, and the extreme risk that put on native peoples.

“There is massive logging on the Peru side of the border and unfortunately the Peruvian Amazon is a ‘no man’s land’ and everything is permitted,” he told me. “So the Indians are being displaced into Brazil.”

Ironically, back in 2008, Meirelles told me something urgently needed to be done before gangs of armed men from Peru started coming into Brazil to kill the Indians that "got in the way" of logging or drug trafficking.

Based on the worrisome developments of the past few days, Meirelles premonition could, sadly, be coming true.

But despite the apparent dangers, the team from FUNAI seems determined to stay at the outpost. In another email reported by the journalist Machado, Meirelles typed:

"We will remain here…until the Brazilian government decides to resolve this absurd (situation)….Not for our protection. For the protection of the Indians!”

Originally published by Al Jazeera on August 8, 2011 under Creative Commons Licensing 

Saturday
Jul022011

Immigrants and 11 Latin America Nations Fight New US Immigration Laws (REPORT) 

Protestors hold signs and chant while marching to Georgia's state capitol Saturday. (CREDIT: J DiBenedetto, HUMNEWS 2011) (Atlanta, Georgia, USA-HN, 7/2/11) – Today, thousands marched on the US state of Georgia’s Capitol in protest of House Bill 87 – an anti immigration bill which passed and was signed earlier this year - chanting cries of “Humans are not for sale” and “Justice for all”.  Protestors called upon US President Barack Obama to step in and do something to halt the stringent requirements.

In March of this year, after a moderate amount of debate in the state House of Georgia, the legislature passed a strict immigration bill that has sparked ire among 11 Latin American countries and various civil and human rights groups.

Following a similarly controversial step in the US states of Arizona, Utah and South Carolina, Georgia passed the law, known as House Bill 87, targeting illegal immigrants and those who harbor them in the state. It carried by a largely Republican party-line vote of 113-56 in the House; with a 37-19 vote in the Georgia State Senate. HB 87 is also called the `Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011'.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal went on to sign the bill, one of the nation’s toughest immigration enforcement measures in May, and both the Georgia law and the South Carolina law took effect July 1.  All of these laws have challenged the thorny debate over illegal immigration in the United States and triggered immediate court appeals.

Under Georgia’s sweeping HB 87, police will be empowered to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects and Georgia employers will be required to check the status of potential workers by using the US Federal `E-Verify’ system before hiring. The measure also sets new regulations and penalizes people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants in the state. 

State lawmakers have cited passage of these bills as being necessary because they say “efforts to get comprehensive immigration legislation through the US Congress have failed”, complaining the federal government has not secured the nation's borders.

Immigration protestors want Justice for All on Saturday in Georgia (CREDIT: J DiBenedetto, HUMNEWS 2011) But federal judges in both Utah and Arizona have halted both of those states' laws amid complaints that they are unconstitutional. In Georgia last week, two of the more controversial provisions of the state’s new immigration enforcement law were blocked by US federal judge Thomas Thrash; but other provisions that were not overturned go into effect July 1. It is now a criminal offense to apply for a job with a false I.D. in Georgia, punishable by up to $250,000 in fines and 15 years in jail.

Aside from the 11 Latin American countries, the US Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and several other civil and immigrant rights groups are party to the legal cases hoping to stop Georgia HB 87 from going forward.

The governments of Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru filed court papers stating that HB 87 is unconstitutional because there is already a federal immigration law on the books.

“HB 87 substantially and inappropriately burdens the consistent country to country relations between Mexico and the United States of America,” Mexico says in its brief in support of halting the law. It also claims the bill is “interfering with the strategic diplomatic interests of the two countries and encouraging an imminent threat of state-sanctioned bias or discrimination.”

In its defense, the state of Georgia has also filed court papers against the challenge to dismiss the lawsuits.

Even before the law in Georgia took effect yesterday, there were reports of immigrants, Hispanics and others who may be affected by the new law leaving the state to avoid detection or prosecution.

In a state – and indeed region where agriculture is one of the biggest industries for the South – the consequences include serious labor shortages with crops rotting in fields, and forcing farmers to raise prices to pay for new workers.

"When this all started in May there was big concern whether we would have enough labor to harvest the crops," Executive Director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Charles Hall, said.

Immigrant workers have been leaving the state since Georgia's bill passed. (CREDIT: J DiBenedetto HUMNEWS 2011) Judge Thrash’s ruling last week has stemmed the flow of people leaving for the time being. But many remain worried, and in recent days have taken to Georgia’s streets and called for a `Human Rights Summer’ in the state to stop the bill from fully coming into practice. Organizers plan to visit Latino communities throughout the state to educate people and organize mobilizations.

The two provisions halted by the judge would have resulted in police checking the immigrant status of anyone detained for traffic violations or some other crime and would have criminalized the harboring and transporting of undocumented immigrants.

Still in play and set to go into effect on January 1, 2012 are parts of the bill which will require employers with 500 or more employees to use the federal E-Verify system to determine job applicants’ legal status before hiring them. Federal law says that E-Verify can only be used for new employees; so many undocumented workers will be unaffected unless they lose their jobs.  That requirement will be phased in for all businesses with more than 10 employees by July 2013.  Also starting January 1, applicants for public benefits must provide at least one state or federally issued “secure and verifiable” document.

In South Carolina, a new illegal immigration enforcement unit has been established by that state’s law and the unit will coordinate between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

Critics of the bill cite both the need for migrant workers for food harvesting but also other economic issues as being impacted with the state’s decision.  Metro Atlanta school officials plan to closely monitor their enrollment figures over the summer.  The reason: many illegal immigrants could leave the state and pull their children out of public schools if opponents are unable to block the law in federal court. In Arizona, which passed a similar immigration law last year, hundreds of children left some of its schools after the bill passed. The state’s tourism business is also taking a hit too.

On Saturday immigrants and US citizens alike took to the streets of Atlanta (CREDIT J DiBenedetto HUMNEWS 2011) On Friday in Georgia, the day HB 87 took effect, a Latino community group called The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights organized a “day without immigrants” to protest the measure. It called for a day of non-compliance, asking businesses to close and community members to stay home and not work or shop. Accounts suggest that at least 125 Atlanta-area businesses closed to show their support Friday.

“We will mark our presence with our absence so that the state of Georgia takes note of the important role and contributions of Latinos in the state,” the group’s president, Teodoro Maus, said.

At Plaza Fiesta, a mall in Atlanta that caters to the growing immigrant population, many stores were closed, with signs in the windows expressing opposition to the law and saying they would be closed Friday in solidarity with the immigrant community. Many restaurants in the food court, however, were open.

The group is also trying to create shopping zones that are friendly to the immigrant community. After a business owner signs a “pledge of non-compliance” with the new law, they get a sign to put in their window that says “Immigrants Welcome Here, Georgia Buy Spot.”

Georgia’s Hispanic population has nearly doubled since 2000, to 865,689, or nearly 10 percent of the state’s population, according to 2010 US Census figures.

But the legal fight nationally is far from over. It could drag on for months and reach the chambers of the US Supreme Court before long.

----HUMNEWS staff